Seven Things We Learned from Pastors’ Kids

It was not the response to a blog post I expected. Back in June of 2013, I wrote a post speaking on behalf of pastors for their kids. I summarized seven major things pastors wanted you to know about their children. The article had a big response when it was first posted. But, for reasons I have not completely fathomed, the post went viral a few weeks ago. Now almost 200,000 views and hundreds of comments later, we can see a pretty clear picture.

You see, the majority of those who responded were pastors’ kids. So, instead of hearing from pastors about their children, we heard directly from the children themselves. Some were teenagers still living with their parents. Others were adults who grew up as PKs. All of them had pretty strong opinions.

As I read again through the plethora of comments, I developed seven major themes from these PKs. Not all of their comments were negative, but a majority did communicate some level of pain. Here is what they said:

  1. The glass house is a reality. People are always looking at the PKs. They have trouble saying or doing anything without someone, usually a church member, making a comment. Most of these PKs (and former PKs) felt a great deal of discomfort living in the glass house. Some even expressed bitterness.
  2. Some church members made a positive and lasting impression on PKs. One of the more frequent positive comments we heard were about the church members who loved and cared for the PKs. Many of them took the children under the wings and made a positive difference in their lives.
  3. Some church members were jerks to the PKs. Many of the stories are heartbreaking. It is really hard to imagine some of the awful words that were said to the PKs. Some still feel the sting of those words decades later.
  4. Many PKs resent the interrupted meals and vacations. They felt like their pastor parent put the church before the family. One PK, now an adult, lamented that every vacation his family took was interrupted; and many times the vacation was truncated.
  5. Some of the PKs have very positive memories when their parents included them in the ministry. I read comments about hospital visits, nursing home visits, and ministry in the community. These PKs absolutely loved doing ministry with mom and dad. They felt like the church ministry was something the whole family did.
  6. A key cry from the PKs was: “Let me be a regular kid.” A number of the PKs expressed pain from the high expectations placed upon them by both their parents and church members. Others said that some church members expected them to behave badly because that’s just what PKs do.
  7. Some PKs left the church for good because of their negative experiences. They viewed local congregations as a place for judgmental Christians who are the worst of hypocrites. They have no desire ever to return. You can feel the resentment and pain in their comments. Their hurt is palpable.

On the one hand, I feel badly for the opening of wounds that blog post caused. On the other hand, I am grateful for the forum it allowed for many of the PKs to express themselves.

If you are a PK, do you identify with these comments? How do the rest of you react to their hopes and hurts?

photo credit: Joe Thorn via photopin cc

Posted on January 8, 2014

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • luke vasicek says on

    I had a relatively positive experience as a PK. I was very blessed because my dad knew how hard it was to be part of a pastor’s family and he acted accordingly. Yes we had interrupted vacations (it sounds harsh, but it is true that for the pastor there is almost always someone dying), yes we had a LOT of interrupted dinners (living next to the church and the church members constantly forgot their keys right around 6pm), lots of late night phone calls for my dad in the hall (favorite time was 10:00pm). But my dad always put us first–what I mean is that he really wanted to spend time with us. He did have some evenings with us and most Saturdays and Sunday afternoons. I am in the ministry now with two small kids and I listen to my wife–if she says “you need to spend some time with us,” I do whatever it takes to make that happen. It sometimes upsets some people, but you have to trust the Lord with that. I always think to myself “Well, I’d rather be fired and get a better job than neglect my family, so if God wants me in the ministry, He’ll have to keep me here.” Just do not take this too far. If a pastor slacks off for even a second it gets noticed right away and has lasting repurcussions. As a pastor, you must listen to your wife and kids. When you start seeing them agitated and stressed, it’s time to spend some time at home with them. You canNOT ignore your family to please people, that is such a slippery slope because the truth is there will always be malcontents in your church. You cannot let the spiritually immature set the agenda for the man of God. The man of God must listen to God and allow God to set his agenda and if you get fired–guess what–the Lord will provide you with another job (which will probably pay more). Just try not to be bitter, angry, or resentful. Forgive others, but do not let them control you. Always have a plan B. My advice is to have a second business or career ready in case the church forsakes you, because it happens. When things are going well, start preparing a resume because churches are made of people (whom God loves very much), and people are fickle, fickle, fickle. They have short memories. You can get up at 3am to go be with their dying relatives, go home at 5am, miss a day of work (because you slept from 6am until 4pm), and others who have no idea what is going on will call you lazy. It happens. Forgive people but do not let them set your agenda or dictate your priorities, they will always try to. I was a PK my whole life. Pastors who are people pleasers hurt their families and it is sad to see.

  • Joseph Shule, you are EXACTLY, what none of us want or need to read. I am almost 60, was raised as an independent, fundamentalist, KJV only, separated Baptist Pastor’s kid. We were so strict, we thought Southern Baptists were liberals, and I was seriously taught that Rev. Billy Graham was a compromiser, and someone to look down on. That all said, fundamentalism stole my identity, my normal emotional and social development, while insisting my only real friends should be in the church, all activities should be around church, in fact the church trumped literally EVERYTHING in my life. My folks loved me, were sincere, but there was no doubt that church always came first no matter what unless I was deathly sick, I was there Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, and every night of the week if we had ‘Revival Services.’ I was expected to be a Christian witness and testimony, to take getting emotionally hurt without striking back for ‘the testimony sake’; it was all about being a salesman for God so people would get saved. At the same time, it never made sense to me that if God chooses (Calvinism) or knows who will be saved (Arminianism) and needs nothing by definition, then my actions, as a young lonely 13 to 15 year old boy in a small town wasn’t going to make any change really. What does make a difference to me even now was that my emotional needs were sadly unmet, God was invisible, and never showed up in any timely or untimely manner; not when I begged, pleaded, performed, asked for wisdom. Nothing. I have suffered and believed in a synthetic belief system that has hurt me and continues to do so. I don’t care if I somehow ‘sin against this invisible, imaginary God’ or not anymore. I’ve wasted a lot of money on Bible college, wasted a lot of time studying, praying, and being rejected for standing up for Baptist beliefs which were equated to God’s Word. So, think about that next time you ‘counsel’ somebody by telling them they are being lied to by another invisible being you call Satan. The reality is that they are probably inexpressibly hurting, stomped down, lonely, and just need to be loved, encouraged, and gently nurtured to even want to live and feel they matter for themselves, not for their performance.

  • Sekaj James says on

    This article has made me so shook because all of it is very much so the truth through the eyes of PKS. The first thing is the built up frustration of having to make the sacrifice all for the sake of what parents are called and chosen to do. It is The School of The Hardknock Life. There is always a pastoral anniversary, or a celebration for both parents in which PKS are not likely to be honored with our parents, or in many cases we are cast to the side, and many times forgotten. I am a PK too.
    I remember being extremely mad, angry, resentful, and I closed up because I was so numb most of my life because I didn’t know how to feel. In church I experienced members calling my parents dad and mom. It is and always will be disrespectful to PKs due to not having a go to person that truly understands. But with any size church whether it be small or large, it ends up being something that we are required to do. All of my life I’ve heard this statement: “All Pastor’s kids are bad.” That is an assumption, statement with know facts backing it up, and opinions about what can’t be described to anyone that doesn’t walk in a PKs shoes.
    PKs try to make it work, but at the end of the day, it’s called “Faking it, Until You Make it Syndrome, which cannot be a thing where you can put a bandaid on, or someone kissing the wound to make it better. The sore isn’t seen on the outside due to not wanting to shame our parents, it’s on the inside of us. PKs at one point stop communicating with church members or with the parents due to not knowing what it feels like because they weren’t PKs themselves, so what is there to explain if you aren’t able to understand what I am saying or going through. It’s impossible to explain or express because we do not want someone kissing our backside because if you feel the need to do that, why talk or express anything about being a PK to a mind of ignorance and stupidity? The more we become sick and tired of being tired and sick, the blunt most of get. We reflect the same attitude that is shown to us. I really want to carry a hand mirror with me everywhere I go so many can talk to there reflection and not me.

    I have a friend in Dallas that was humiliated internationally because of who his father is, and every smell, every street, or highway, and even the sight reminds him of the trauma. He will not be able to recover from what happened to him.

    Blogs, articles, YouTube videos, and much more triggers him into rage. I even wanted to send him plane ticket and tell him to leave what he had possessed and help financially to let him start over just being himself.

    The things that he is told all the time is to get over it, but I being a friend to him for years, a PK myself, I don’t see how anyone can tell him that because it’s impossible to do that. I hurt because he hurts, I cry because he cries, and the cross he carries is thousands of tons that he is not able to move it. It’s like a mountain being pushed with all of your might and it can’t be moved. He has tried to even comment suicide to be freed. He was nearly successful.

    So, those that aren’t PKs are the ones we have nothing to say to and is a waste of time and effort. Now, he doesn’t go to church at all because it makes him want to punch people in the face just for the hell of it. He needs to be compensated for the pain he carries because it is nothing that he can do about it. I understand why he should be paid millions of dollars for the mere fact of the humiliation never dying. He isn’t living, he is existing by inner strength alone.

    Lastly, PKs are the only ones that knows what sacrifice is more than anyone that is not a PK period dot com!!!

  • I grew up a Southern Baptist pastor’s kid, very sheltered, with no skills for dealing with the real world (I really struggled after graduating from college). Fortunately, I only went through two schools. The first church of which I have any memories had some people who tried to starve us by denying my dad a raise (we only had one raise in 9.5 years). The next church was wonderful, they were generous, supportive, loving, you name it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was my dad’s best ministry experience. I can relate to #1, #2, #3, #4, and #6. My mother set very unrealistic expectations and I struggled well into my adult years. It impacted my life in no small way (I finally married at the age of 38, almost 39, after giving up all hope). I am 51 now. I graduated from a Baptist college with a business degree. I had to deal with legalism and many non scriptural things. I still struggle with self esteem issues, insecurity, etc (my mother had those issues for almost all of her life and that’s what was modeled in front of me). Both of my folks are gone now. I still go to church, although I really don’t get excited about it.

  • I grew up a preacher’s kid and I can so relate to the negative experiences that other PKs have gone through. I was expected to be a perfect, flawless angel much of the time. I hated being pressured to be so perfect, just so flawless and innocent. I never had a dark streak and never a desire to rebel against God or my dad. Yet, my dad was constantly suspicious of my brothers and I and feared that we were looking for an excuse to rebel and embarrass him.

    For my dad, the church always came first and for my mother, family always came first. My parents would butt heads over this and my dad was resentful that my mother was not the very docile, Stepford wife that he needed her to be. She didn’t worship the ground he walked on, which he thought he was entitled to. Being a pastor also made my dad’s character flaws worse. My dad graduated from college, *cum laude* and thought he was one of the world’s smartest people. Anyone who disagreed with him was ignorant and stupid and should be deeply shamed if not screamed at.

    Don’t get me wrong: my dad had some character virtues. He was friendly, funny, you could have deep conversations with him or just discuss what is on your mind. My dad was also a straight-shooter; he wasn’t one to B.S. anyone. My dad was always ready to help someone in need and if he saw a family in need, he would do his best to try to move mountains so that the family got food and shelter.

    I didn’t have a normal childhood. I grew up suburbs until my dad got a calling to go to San Francisco. I lived in an adult neighborhood and there were very few kids around where I lived. We couldn’t go out of the house after dark without a parent or other adult and we didn’t have a front lawn; even the houses were crammed together like sardines. We lived there for six years until my dad got tired of my mother’s nagging and then we moved. It was about time for me; I longed for one of those boring, conservative suburbs that everyone sees in movies like *Home Alone*.

    The worst part about being a PK were the guilt trips. My dad’s cure-all method for solving every emotional problem was to slap someone with a guilt trip. If something was bothering me, my dad’s tone of voice was “You’re letting *that* bother you? That is so stupid! How can you let something defeat you like that! I raised you to be smarter than that! How can you be so stupid?!?” Even if my dad didn’t use all of these abusive words, that is what came across.

    To this day, I wrestle with guilt and feelings of resentment. My dad has retired from the ministry but still accepts preaching assignments. When I look back I see some flawed people in my family. While my dad could be a warm and caring guy, other times he could be so grouchy and humorless. My mother was very loving at times, humorous, forgiving, and wise. But she could also very self-righteously judgmental, very snobbish, and believed whatever came out of Rush Limbaugh’s mouth so uncritically.

    I had flaws, too. Some of my flaws were innate; I had a serious problem paying attention and I did badly in many classes because my mind would wander and I would start daydreaming. I also have a tendency to do activities in patterns of four and I struggle with chronically washing my hands. Fearing my dad’s temper, I would sometimes lie to get out of a tight-spot. I was a decent kid, got along with most people, avoided trouble, and strove to live a virtuous life.

    I guess I didn’t have it as bad as others did. I originally committed my life to Jesus Christ at age 14. However, a decade later, I renounced the faith after a former preacher, -turned apostate and Bible skeptic convinced me that the Bible was a flawed book. So, now as a very happy and quite secular person, I no longer have to be perfect, I no longer have to fear the guilt trips, I have learned to think for myself, and I have taken responsibility for my life, which includes being very honest.

    If I ever joined a church, it would be a progressive Christian church. I am forever done with conservative churches. I am done with the scientific illiteracy, done with the pompous piety, done with the hypocrisy, done with the argumentative, always-need-to-be-right, done with the dishonesty, and done with fighting over doctrines, liturgy, and eschatology. I would never go back to a conservative Protestant Church. Even if I ever came to embrace the conservative Christian faith, I would probably either became a Quaker or join an American Orthodox Church. But I don’t see this ever happening.

    Anyways, this is my story in a long nutshell…

  • In spite of says on

    I am both broken and comforted reading these comments from other PK kids. I was born into the position much like a military kid. We have no choices but plenty of expectations placed on us. Our parent chose a profession that will regularly effect almost every aspect of our childhood. If only he had been an insurance salesmen or a mechanic. Some normal job that afforded children a more normal upbringing. I often say that my relationship with God is in spite of my dad’s years in the ministry…not because of it. It is in spite of my childhood not because of it. I swore I would never marry a person in the ministry or military. I won’t do that to my kids or to myself. I respect and admire both pastors and those who serve but recognize the cost required. My dad was a Southern Baptist Minister at some very large and prominent churches. We were on Tv and played host to many of the great Christian evangelists and singers. We were at church all the time and he was there even more. I saw my dad more at church than I did at home. When i did spend alone time with him it was with the motivation to lead me to Christ. Like a salesmen who is friendly and interested in you for about 5 minutes until they find a way to make their pitch. The fish bowl analogy is exactly on point. The church, especially big mega churches are big business. My Entire childhood is peppered with and centered around church. It came first. We didn’t go on normal vacations or have normal dinner conversations. We attended religious conferences for vacation or visited family if we were lucky. We memorized the disciples and books of the bible at the dinner table and had them down by the time I started school. I had to attend every luncheon and be prepared to host the visiting whoever’s kids. Every correction was made via scripture and physical force. If a volunteer to pray or lead was requested and no one raised their hand I was expected to do it automatically. I felt like we had to be perfect both physically and spiritually. Of course this is impossible so the judgement and feelings of failure are inevitable. At the age of 8 my father had a nervous breakdown and was arrested for inappropriate leud behavioral acts toward another. He was forced to retire suddenly. We had almost no money and our lifestyle changed drastically. We continued to attend the same church. I was teased by the other pks and minister’s kids for not being part of the group any more. My dad was gone a lot and we only saw him occasionally. My mom was drinking a lot, angry, and violent. She had to become the working parent after having stayed home for years. I found out later that all her so called friends at the church were shunning her. 3 years later we were told that my Dad had been “called” to another church in other state. I was furious. I was uprooted as we are often and the blame placed on God. Don’t blame God for “Calling”. Own the desicion as a parent. It will only lead to your kids being Angry at Him. Two years later another breakdown….another arrest. My parents separated. No more churches. No more callings. I however was old enough now to understand what had happened and this time the rumor mill was in full swing. Glass houses. Glass houses with closed doors. I remember telling a children’s minister once that my mom was abusive. her response to me was that she knew my dad and he was a Godly man therefore he would never allow that to happen. People make assumptions about the lives of pastors/ministers. These assumptions are rarely accurate. The damage to my heart, head, and spiritual life was severe. It took years and ultimately getting away from my parents house in order to find myself and reclaim my relationship with God. I was suicidal and depressed. I was angry and ultimately blamed within my family for not getting over everything fast enough. I was the problem. I was told that the devil had inhabited my body and come to destroy our family. I was causing a raucous. I made a scene. I spent years smiling the fake smile with blonde curls and a pretty dress. Pretending Everything was ok. I was done pretending. Done faking it for the crowds. I don’t know if there is a solution to protecting pks. I don’t know if they can have a normal childhood if their parent isn’t putting family before work. My father eventually got help….my parents stayed together. I have a better relationship with them now than I did back then but it is still full of minefields. Topics we can’t discuss, apologies that will never come, and a very clear spiritual boundary line drawn by me. The church not God’s church but the business of the church broke my father….and ultimately my father broke our family. The damage is permanent. I now have two kids and am raising them differently. I don’t hit them. I don’t use scripture in correction and discipline. I don’t place the importance on them that people are watching our every move. We spend lots of time together as a family with no alteier motivations. We attend church but I will never hold the pastor or staff on a pedestal. I want my kids to know God because they have experienced Him for themselves…..not because they were taught to memorize every scripture and do the expected. please think it through….going into the ministry isn’t just a decision you are making for yourself but for others too. Your spouse and your kids. If you know you want to be a pastor maybe think about whether you can really be a great parent and do that profession too. If there is even a doubt…..please don’t have kids!

  • Esther says on

    Hey All,

    I am a Pastor’s Kid, I am 32 years old, my dad got the calling from God when i was 15 turning 16. It was so hard growing up into my adult life, trying to live a life that everyone wanted me to live as well as my brothers and sister. The saddest part of being a Pastor’s Kid, is always being Criticized, Judged and watched by church members or other church members from other churches, I am not perfect, I have weaknesses as well that i have been trying to stop, but for years i felt forced to go to church because im the Pastors kid, i fell into deep depression, which i now suffer from alot of other mental health issues. I couldnt finishes at a uni i wanted because of Church, we had to move down state and it was so hard, i gave up on alot of things because of my Father trying to keep the church happy. A couple of days we’ve had someone reported my facebook page, then to find out it was the assistant pastors wife who was stalking my page and my siblings pages, i really hate being a Pastors Kid, because we are fully judged, spoken badly about and people think we are jesus or God. That we should live a pure life like Jesus, i am and never will be Like Jesus as i have flaws like every other human being on this planet has, i’m tired of having people watch my every move, my every word i speak, actions i do, i know that the only person that can ever judge me is God. My brother is Gay and hes left the church due to this, he was bible bashed yesterday by the Assistant pastor and his wife. But my brother said “then why was i born this way? I cant just turn this off” My Gay brother moved away due to his circumstances as he already told my father that he needs to leave or the church will never grow. I stepped down from doing anything for church but just attend it, now i feel that since the church was recently open we have people trying to tell me and my siblings what to do. I hate being a Pastors kid, most people were born into it, but we were pretty much thrown into this position, we werent ready, we werent even taught how to act like Pastors kids, but we have been abused, watched others treat my family like we were nothing, people laugh and talk about my family like we are nothing. It is the most painful experience in my life. I am not deciding to leave the church for a while to work on myself. I have been ordered by the church members to shutdown my personal page, but i will not, they don’t know me well to know that i do have a relationship with God, and feel that he is trying to help, as he helped my older brother find god, My older brother has quit drinking, quit all the bad things in his life and is now serving God… I can thank God for his love, but for the church i will give that a rest from now on and go seek Jesus and God for his guidance in my life.

  • I have been a pk my whole life. My dad was betrayed by every single church because the elders were legalistic and controlling and judgmental. They pretended to be our friends and then stabbed us in the back! I will never set foot in another church again because of this pain and betrayal!

    • Jerry Walker says on

      I have posted here several times! I, along with all other pastors’ children, know EXACTLY how you feel! I, too, abandoned the church just as soon as I came of age and had say-so over my own life. It took years to get me back into a church. I do, however, hope you won’t turn your back on God. That’s like throwing away the key to the lions’ cage and YOU’RE still IN it! Its not God doing this, its sinful people who are misguided and not truly “christian” to begin with. They just *think* they are! And they succumb to the same thinking, the same politics of a sinful world. One of the mistakes *some* church people make is, believing the pastor and his family are the “property” of the church, and are to be controlled by them. As one matures while under this political realm (thumb?), the child learns about these power “cliques” that masquerade as oh-so “christian”, oh-so pious “saints” of God. Its kind of like eating of the Tree of Knowledge where one’s eyes get opened & he can recognize these people for what they are: phony!

      I am much older now and I look back at the tragedy that was(?) my life. I know there were potentials, talents, and successes that never were because of what I went thru as a Preacher’s Kid. For the treatment I received, some of it I took as a failure of my own simply because I felt responsible that I WAS in that predicament to begin with. Yes, I HATED that life! I HATED the “glass house”. I DESPISED that, because I was scrutinized so much more than other kids, that when I seemed to fail at reaching that unrealistic goal “set” for me for what were actually unqualified judges (YEAH, WHO *WERE* YOU to judge ME anyway) I WAS a failure. And when those goody two-shoes “Pharisees-on-the steps” were mad at Daddy (the Pastor), they also took it out on ME and Momma as well.

      And by age 14 I was filled with a rage that was actually dangerous! I brooded well into my twenties about going back to one town that had hurt us so, jerking one Royal Ambassador leader up by the throat and stomping him. (HEY, you scrawny little pipsqueak, ya wanna grab me by the shoulders and set me down again? I DARE you! No, I WANT you do it so I can break every bone in your skinny body, you snivelin’ little coward!!!!! 🙁 I was a VERY, angry, dangerous young man in those days.

      But God and His Time allowed me to calm down. Would I hurt them now? No. I might tell ’em what I thought, if they are still living, but I wouldn’t hurt ’em. Have I forgiven them. Well, ……………………………yes, ……………..and no. These kinds of “christians” do far more hurt than they know, or to others who object to their actions. Think for a moment of what it does TO the kids like us who because of these “board of deacon” types escape never to return. It destroys witness. It harms Christ’s church by alienation of PK’s like you and me. For that kid’s Daddy Deacon so-‘in so just asked to resign, or threatened may react just like YOU, walk away from God, His Work on earth. Daddy may leave the ministry, embittered and disillusioned. The children may be filled with utter rage, curse God and never return. Is THAT what such hypocrites want. Is their self-ballooned “power” worth the destruction of the pastors’ children and their Faith? I don’t think so. But that is the reality in many of the posts here; pain, anger, bitterness, disillusionment caused by self-righteous little martinets and comic buffoons who aren’ t “funny” at all.

      I hope you can work out your anger at the church, at God, and find your way back to His Fold. It may take some time; that’s true. It has taken time for THIS PK and time to accept that real damage was done to ME that I can never get back or fix. And that it wasn’t my fault that people treat their pastor and family in such a lousy way. I hope you can heal, too.

      And to Mr. Rainer, I say THANK YOU for allowing us to post here. It does help! For so many years there was no place for PK’s to express their thoughts on what happened to them. These things NEED to be said, and there needs to be some place for pastors’ families to seek refuge. For almost 55 years, THIS PK didn’t have one!

  • I am a PK and have been since I was born. Growing up in the church with my brothers was a mixture of good and bad. As the more responsible child, I always felt like it was my duty to carry my brothers reputation, and be the “goody two shoes” PK. We were always under CONSTANT scrutiny of certain church members, and always had to watch what we said, and how much information we gave away about our family to people.. “don’t tell anyone this” was a very common phrase in our household when our parents told us anything. It seemed older I got, the more I found out about the wolves that were in our church, the mistreatment of my parents, the cowardly and abusive phone calls, texts and emails sent to my father after he had given a sermon that was God-honouring (as some seemed to mistake our church for a social club, and not a place for spiritual growth, or to be reminded that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God [its in the bible, read it.]). I became more aware of the emotional, verbal and sometimes even physical abuse that my parents endured, whilst all the time still having to be gracious and polite to the people who were inflicting this pain on my parents (even though I wanted to scream at them and rip their heads off for daring to treat my parents in such a way).

    When I was 12, my father lost his job as a pastor (due to “funding cuts”), and when my parents prayed for a single door to be opened so that they would be confident they were following God’s will, one did – on the other side of the country. So our family moved, my brothers and I full of hope that maybe, just maybe this church would be different, that our parents would be treated with respect. However this was not the case, in fact it was worse. I wasn’t even introduced as a person with a name, no, I was consistently introduced as ‘the pastor’s daughter’, HELLO I HAVE A NAME. Don’t get me wrong, there was no shame in being associated with christianity or that I wanted to disown my parents, it was the fact that no one took the time to introduce me as me, no they just introduced me as a label, and everyone would pigeon-hole me into their version of what a PK was, without even getting to know me. The small town where we moved was even worse when it came to not telling anyone anything, I felt like I could talk to noone, and noone understood the position my brothers and I were constantly in; second guessing every word we spoke, and always trying to figure out if the person we were talking to was a friend or foe. I really wish that there was a place where Pastor’s kids (of any age) could go and talk to eachother in safe space, not just in the comments of a blog, but a real space where they can get support from eachother without fear of what they’re saying getting out to the community to be used against their parents. Even now I struggle to talk about my personal life with people, I struggle to trust that others can be confided in without them using what I say against me or my parents.

    Family time, days off and holidays were always interrupted by unexpected visitors or phonecalls from people in the church. I struggled with the fact that people felt like it was ok to abuse my parents one day, and then turn around the next and still expect help and prayer from them. My parents were treated like dirt.

    Once again I saw and experienced the betrayal, by people who I thought were my parent’s friends, honestly the way they betrayed my parents was like watching Judas betray Jesus to the Romans…

    As I watched my mother decline deeper into depression, and both my brothers turn away from their faiths, it was really hard not to get angry with God. I mean, what kind of God let’s a pastor and his wife, who have uprooted their whole family to move to the other side of the country where we know noone in order to follow His will, be constantly mistreated, abused, and in the end, once again lose their jobs for a SECOND time in 10 years?? Is this a LOVING GOD? Is this a God who loves his good and faithful servant, or wants him to have a mental breakdown before stepping in?

    What made it worse was that people in the church, even well meaning friends, would say “I know how you feel”… can I just say that is one of THE WORST things to say to a PK if you’re trying to comfort them, and you YOURSELF are NOT a PK. Because I don’t care how many blogs or comments or articles you read on what its like to be a PK, you will NEVER fully understand what its like until you have been one of US firsthand!!

    Well, this is where I had to think and make the decision to discern WHO was mistreating my parents, WHO was scheming and lurking in the dark to undermine them… does that sound like God? Or more like the sinful, selfish ways of worldly mankind???

    In the end it was for the best that my parents did not continue with that toxic church. My parents no longer are responsible for those people’s spiritual welfare, and my dad can finally be able to focus on my mum and himself and their mental health, instead of having to look after everyone else in the church who selfishly expected all of my parent’s time and energy.

  • I grew up a PK and I am now a 46 year old man who has horrific memories of the way the church treated me and my family. I can’t tell you how many times, as a child, I was verbally and emotionally assaulted by a church member. I stopped having any faith in the church at about the age of 15 because of the hypocrisy and just plain vileness of church people. And no I did not do the sterotypical PK rebellion of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I just stopped believing. I went through the motions. I just figured it was part of the game. At 18 I became an agnostic. It wasn’t until about eleven years ago I even gave the Lord a passing thought. Through a personal spiritual quest I came to the Lord about ten years ago. It wasn’t through the actions of any church or church member. I have a relationship with the Lord but want nothing to do with any church. The church pushes more people away from the Lord than it will ever bring to Him.

  • My childhood as a PK was 90% awful and 10% awesome. It did have some perks – I loved the times when we were allowed to travel as a family when my Dad preached abroad and visiting the elderly with Dad when I was off school sick. But for the most part, we were raised solely by my mother as Dad worked over 80 hours per week and when he was present he was usually cross with us and was in charge of administering the punishments. I don’t remember ever being hugged by my Dad. I think my brother must have been affected too, since he was always angry and often beat me up, even threatening to kill me when we were teenagers, causing me to move in with some church folk temporarily. The phrase reiterated throughout my childhood was “you should know better”. As I grew older I came to the realisation that nothing I could ever do would be good enough, therefore, I could not be a Christian since I could not live up to my parents’ standards. I got in with the wrong crowd, doing anything to gain acceptance. I got into drugs, slept around and battled with mental health issues. I realised later, that I had just wanted to be wanted, and was seeking the approval of men in particular. But I never totally gave up the faith. I knew in theory that God is a loving God, but just struggled to reconcile this with my experiences. I have received a lot of healing already, but still feel that more is needed. Does anyone know where a PK can go to receive ministry as this doesn’t seem to be an issue that the majority of church folk/leadership understands (sometimes they actually contribute to the difficulties)?

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